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Salaries a concern for county departments

May 7, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Requests for new hires and employee raises will be on the agenda at many of Fremont County's budget hearings this month and next. The Fremont County Commission will hear from departments, elected officials and community groups for several weeks before finalizing its financial plan for the coming fiscal year.

County budget hearings began this week.

Fiscal year 2014 is set to start July 1 and end June 30, 2014.

Officials have said the commission freezing all personnel spending during the last budget process adds urgency to augmenting remuneration this year.

Department requests

On April 23, Sheriff Skip Hornecker said he hopes to

raise the communications center budget from about $900,000 to $1.3 million along with restructuring it so agencies using its services contribute funding.

Part of the increase would come from adding a third dispatcher, which was included in Hornecker's plan.

Ambulance director Lauri Wempen said she wants to add staff in Dubois to improve response times and make up for declining volunteer participation.

Many budget requests from county entities early in the schedule ask for more money for personnel.

County planner Ray Price asked for an 8.3 percent "cost of living" increase for all of his staff, adding about $18,000 total to the $200,000 payroll from the current fiscal year.

Price said he would like further funds for merit-based raises.

"If we lose staff, our commitment and service to the taxpayers of Fremont County will be severely compromised," Price said.

Building maintenance supervisor J.R. Oakley requested an across-the-board 2 percent salary increase and an additional 2 percent in discretionary raises for the buildings and detention center staffs. The added costs would be about $9,000 on top of this year's $297,000 salary budget.

"Health insurance cost is beginning to be a concern in that insurance premiums are rising rapidly and salaries with little to no growth," Oakley said.

Libraries

Library director Matt Nojonen is requesting $98,000 in raises for his staff. He asks for a 2.5 percent increase for all library employees.

Nojonen pointed out his employees last received a raise two years ago, and it was 2 percent. Since then, he wrote, inflation has increased more than 7 percent, and insurance premiums climbed as well.

"The combination of these factors makes it harder and harder for our employees to make ends meet," Nojonen said.

The library employee who manages technology -- such as computers, telephones and security cameras -- makes 24 percent less than the lower paid of two county workers who have similar jobs, Nojonen said. Similarly, he said his facilities manager earns 12 percent less than his counterpart in the county.

Nojonen would like to increase both of their salaries.

He also said he would like to hire another maintenance person for the Lander Library because the facilities staff is inadequate at that location.

The library director also would like to create two 18 hours-a-week positions at the Dubois Branch Library. Nojonen said the new hires would reduce that location's dependence on "substitute" employees.

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Fremont County Commissioners